If you meet former students of Jon Thompson, the Goldsmiths crowd of the 1980’s, they will all tell you what a brilliant teacher he was. Not gushing. Not always available. Just brilliant, giving remarks and feedback when needed, often at a level that the student didn’t fully comprehend until years later, suddenly a realisation, falling into place.
Everybody will tell you that the show he curated, ‘Falls the Shadow’ was seminal.
At his funeral on Tuesday 22nd March in deepest Kent, UK, many of the art world gathered. The service was wonderful, arranged by Jeremy Ackerman who edited his collected writings and his gallerist Anthony Reynolds. They told of the artist, with Ackerman ending his tale of going to Jon’s studio in Belgium and walking in to see a canvas that almost blinded him with its intensity of colour and Jon saying “Well, what do you think?”. Anthony Reynolds talked about his giving up painting when he became a lecturer as he found it impossible to do both; painting being so full time. But when he retired suddenly these works appeared, works he must have been planning all those years. “There is only art; the thing itself”. Others told wonderful tales and his family celebrated their wonderful brother and uncle. His partner, Andrew, was too sad to talk. Andrew Brightman told how he loved an argument, but annoyingly always knew more about any topic than you did, however obscure! His kindness and conviviality, his vast intellect, his art. Sarah Wedderburn read from his essays, words of utter brilliance.
I was lucky enough to sit next to him at a dinner once. As in life we do not see the future, we do not know when we shall die and I did not realise that this would be the only time I would share such a moment. So I did not record in my mind what we had talked about. I remember talking about a commission he had for work at Broadmoor, a secure facility for severely disturbed and dangerous people. I was fascinated by such a challenge; making work for people who do not know the difference between good and evil, whether there is such a difference. I think a lot of the rest of our conversation was light hearted and fun. I only wish I had met him sooner and that he had lived longer. There was at least another ten years worth of painting in him which we shall now never see.
The art world has lost a master and the world has lost a wonderful soul.
May he be in an heavenly studio full of paint, canvas, delicious food and wonderful wine.